Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels visits Shohei Kawasaki and his parents at a hospital in Osaka Prefecture. The child is in need of a heart transplant and Ohtani visited him to offer encouragement. The parents talk about what the visit meant to them. (Video footage by Satoru Ogawa and Takashi Yoshikawa)
OSAKA–American League Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani swapped his uniform for a suit to visit a child in hospital here in need of a heart transplant whose name reads the same in kanji characters.
Ohtani learned about the plight of the 1-year-old boy named Shohei Kawasaki through an acquaintance and felt a desperate urge to encourage the child and his parents, who are struggling to raise funds for a heart transplant.
Ohtani held little Shohei, touched his face and spoke to him in encouraging terms. Ohtani presented the Kawasakis with an autographed baseball as well as a card with a message saying “Do your best, Shohei!”
Shohei Kawasaki was named by his father, Taishi, 30, a fan of professional baseball. Taishi wanted his son to grow up in a strong manner, much like the Los Angeles Angels star who made a name for himself both at the plate and as a starting pitcher. The child’s name uses the same kanji characters as Ohtani.
Shohei Kawasaki has been diagnosed as having dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart that makes it difficult for the organ to pump blood. The only way to completely treat the condition is through a heart transplant.
Ohtani also devoted his time to talking to the parents about having to spend so much of each day at their son’s bedside and what would be involved if they accompanied Shohei to a U.S. hospital to have the heart transplant.
Taishi told Ohtani that they were always encouraged by his activities on the baseball diamond.
After Ohtani left, Shohei’s mother, Shizuha, 33, said, “He really uplifted us. We want to tell Shohei about today’s visit when he is grown up.”
Shohei’s condition was first diagnosed when he was still a foetus. Two artificial hearts have been implanted to help pump blood.
Because of a dearth of donors in Japan, the Kawasakis are seeking a heart transplant in the United States. However, the cost of the surgery as well as travel and other expenses are expected to total around 350 million yen ($3.2 million).
A fund-raising campaign named “Save Shohei” was still about 120 million yen short of the goal as of Dec. 28.
More details can be found at the campaign’s website at (https://saveshohei.com/english.php).